Thursday, September 24, 2015


With deadlines and assignments each day, composer Stephen Schwartz barely has time to perform at Queensboro Performing Arts Center, let alone giving an interview. 

Q. What was the first song that you wrote?

A. I was around 6 when I wrote a song called “Little Lullaby” for a puppet show that my sister and I were doing for our parents about a dog that had run away from home. The very first Broadway show that I wrote a song for was “Butterflies Are Free”, which turned into a movie that starred Keir Dullea.  At that time I received a Princely sum of $25 a week.  The first full Broadway show was Godspell, which was originally produced Off-Broadway.  Pippin was the first show that opened on Broadway.  I was 24 at the time.

Q. When you’re writing for a show, do you write from the script or book?

A. “Book” has two meanings.  For instance an adaptation of the novel by Winnie Holzman from which Wicked was written vs. the scripted dialogue. I and my collaborator outline the show and figure how we’re going to tell the story through song while analyzing the characters as to the tone in which they speak. 
In Wicked, the decision was that the leading character, Elphaba, would have a first song in which she dreamed about some day meeting the Wizard entitled “The Wizard and I”.

Q. I notice that there are songs that you compose either the lyrics or music?

A. I work closely with Alan Menken, known for shows like Beauty and the Beast.  For the show Enchanted, for instance, I wrote the lyrics while Alan wrote the music. 

Q. Do you have an expectation of what will become the “hit numbers” in your Broadway show?

A. I’m always almost wrong about that. For instance with Godspell there is this song called All Good Gifts that I clearly thought would be the hit.  As it turned out it was Day By Day which was recorded by Robin Lamont for the original cast version.  When you’re writing for a musical in contemporary times because it’s so story oriented and character driven you really can’t worry about writing something that might have a life outside of the show. Cabaret performers will choose a song that people like hearing and show off their talents.

Q. Is there a favorite show?
A. I’m partial to a show that people may not know called Children of Eden.  It is personal and I believe it has my best score.  The Spark of Creation has had much recording as well as Stranger to the Rain, Whatever Time We Have, and The Hardest Part of Love.  There are shows that I write without an expectation of their coming to New York such as Baker’s Wife.

Q. I understand that you worked for Disney?

A. Working with Alan I have done three animated films: Pocahantas, of which the best known song is called Colors of the Wind; Hunchback of Notre Dame; and Enchanted. Hunchback of Notre Dame was recently adapted into a stage musical, which we are about to record the cast album in a couple of weeks. 

Son of Pinocchio, originally called Geppetto, was a television special.  Children’s theatre groups were interested and so we did a stage adaptation. Sonya Isaacs did a “pop” recording of the movie title song, If I Gave My Heart Away. She is a wonderful singer with an evocative voice.

Q. Do you ever sing any of your own songs?

A. I can sing, but I’m not a singer.  People do like to hear a songwriter sing his own songs. I will be singing at the QPAC event. However, I have three singers that will be performing songs from my shows.

Q. Are there any shows in the making?

A. I’m working on an upcoming adaptation of the animated movie, The Prince of Egypt, for which I have written songs. Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston popularized “When You Believe”.  Although the production may not go to Broadway it will be licensed for theatres around the country to perform it.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


In case you missed it, New York Oyster Week was a celebration of the oyster's considerable and extraordinary role in the history, culture, cuisine, economy and ecology of New York.  Each September, New York Oyster Week presents opportunities to gather and enjoy oysters in exciting and engaging events of all sizes and shapes. Events are created to cater to the tastes and geographies of enthusiasts and the curious alike. The Rockaways held its first Oyster Fest on September 18th on Beach 116th Street. 

London Lennie’s took part at this fest holding a daily Slurp-off competition culminating in a Slurp-Off All Star Championship during the Oyster Bar Bash.  The other half of the Oyster week experience took place in an impressive collection of distinguished New York City restaurants including London Lennie’s. Located at 66-88 Woodhaven Blvd. in Rego Park this well-known restaurant has been owned by the Barnes family since 1959.   

I popped in there to speak with Mark Connery, who has been their General Manager for the last 11 years.  We first chatted about the oysters of which they normally have 8 different ones daily and changing each day.  They have a fish buyer who goes to the market and chooses the best.  If you sidle up to the bar, you can view each of the group of oysters surrounded by crushed ice.  “I wouldn’t recommend getting oysters that are already shucked”, said Mark.  

Oysters come from both the East and West Coast. On this particular day the raw bar menu had: Conway Royals (PEI); Blackberry Point (PEI); Onset (MA); Rocky Nook (MA); Standish Shore (MA), Wild Wellfleet (MA): and Glidden Bay XL, (ME).   I found the Conway to be briny and salty, but fine.  The only one that I didn’t care for was the Glidden Bay in its brininess.   It’s the waters that the oysters are taken from that determine their taste.  The size of the oyster does not determine the flavor.  

The local Blue Point from Long Island is quite popular. These and ones from Virginia are used for many of their cooked Oyster Specials such as the creamy oyster stew that has a slight kick of cayenne. It is served with the original recipe oyster crackers.  Would you expect anything else?  Then there was the Grilled Oysters with fresh herb, garlic, butter, romano cheese and seasoned bread crumbs.  Chef Jeff told me that he makes use of large and meaty oysters as they hold up better when cooked. 

Enough with the oysters, let’s get to their yearly Crabfest.  You can’t miss knowing when it’s happening as a huge blown up crab sits upon the roof, let alone the displayed banners.  It begins during the middle of October.
Alaska tells you when you can go out into their waters to get the famous Alaskan King Crabs.   They control the quota as well.  Mark says that the ones in Dutch Harbor are not as salty as some of the other locations as the processing does not happen in salt water.  You can see view them in a tank located at the retail area.  When purchased, you get the entire crab.  If you want the crab legs, they are pre-cooked and frozen, like any other restaurant.  

My favorite is the Dungeness Crab, also from the West Coast.  They are large and unlike King Crabs, there is much meat in the body.  A similar crab which can be passed off as is the East Coast Jonah Crab.  Florida has its Stone Crabs of which people tend to eat the claws and knuckles. They are also pre-cooked and frozen.  I don’t have much patience for the small Maryland crabs of which the pre-packed meat tends to be used in making crab cakes.  I do love them when they are “soft-shell” as I can eat the whole crab without having to pick out the meat. 

Let’s get back to the retail area.  Here is the place to buy sushi grade fish such as tuna, salmon, and yellowtail.  Buy it when you expect to eat it the same day.  It is not necessarily the same fish used at sushi restaurants of which many are first treated and frozen.  Put it in the frig over ice. Have it sashimi style or create your own maki rolls.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Fed up with Fedex.  Package winds up with a hole in the bottom  due to liquid soaking through.   Let’s start from the delivery.  I heard someone comes down the outside basement steps and quite noisy in its placement in front of a door that I cannot open from the inside due to it blocking the door.   It is obvious that it does so, but delivery services don’t care.  No tag on my front door as to its location.   Tracking online says it was delivered.  I called Fedex and although they were apologetic said there is nothing that they could do.  I demanded to first speak with a supervisor who called the local Fedex from where it came out.  I spoke with supervisor Ozier Hastings demanding that he send the driver back, retrieve it from the basement door and put it in front of my house.  I told Ozier that I have trouble walking and it would take a bit of time for me to get to the door.  

I could see two figures going up my front doorsteps and the doorbell ringing.   It rang again as I was making my way to the door.   They were gone when I opened the door and this 20 lb box was sitting there.  I managed to drag in the box first noticed that there was a partial opening.   I then opened the box to find something leaking.   The product seemed closed and in a plastic bag.  It had to have taken some mishandling in order for the leakage to occur.   After getting out each of the products I happened to look at the bottom of the box to see a hole made by the leakage.   I did not care about getting the apology from Ozier.  He is responsible for his employees.  I wanted to have him confront the employee and ask why he did not put up a sign as well as mishandling the package.  If it did leak and had a hole at the bottom, he should have put a comment on a tag regarding the condition of the product.   It’s an “ I just need to drop off a package and get on to the next stop” attitude.  “Let the sender pay for another shipment. Not my problem”.   Ozier promised to confront the employ and get back with me on what he said.  Didn’t happen. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


This is what I love about going to a butcher store.   Ottomanelli in Sunnyside.   I want to be able to cook meats quickly.  I requested about a pound of beef cut really thin.  They chose sirloin. It looked like rare roast beef.  I had to keep in mind that it was raw.

 Using my herb chopper, I combined a piece of lemongrass and fresh ginger.  Sauteed in a pan and added fresh scallions.  Dropped in 4 slices of the beef.  It took about two minutes to cook.  Beef was quite tender. 

Next was pork.  They chose the butt.   

I had taken the meat and divided it into portions.  Used a small portion cooked up with scallions and a bit of salt.  Short time later, added an egg into the pan and scrambled it.  Breakfast. 

Then there was lamb chosen from the leg.

I decided to have a poundish of ground turkey taken from the leg.  "It's juicier", he said.

Took a large portion of the ground turkey and combined it with an egg and Panko bread crumbs as well as some chopped ginger. Olive oil into the pan. Formed a large patty.  Tasted great.